Members of Ne’ve Shalom Hull Reform Synagogue – together with some members of the Sheffield community recently visited to Beth Shalom, the National Holocaust Memorial Centre in Newark. The organised trip was the result of a conversation in Hull’s conversation class whose members were joined by a number of shul members including Joanne Kearsley who has written this account of what proved to be a moving experience.
On a beautiful Sunday morning on 8 June, 17 shul members and friends set off on a trip to the National Holocaust Memorial Centre in Newark. Some members had been to Beth Shalom before, but for most it was their first visit. On arrival at the Centre we were shown a short film, depicting the atrocities of the Nazis and a short introductory talk about Beth Shalom. Created eighteen years ago by a Methodist family, the Smiths, the Centre is run in the main by volunteers.
One such volunteer, who can be seen regularly giving talks, is Simon Winston. Born in 1938 in Ukraine, Simon Weinstein, which was his birth name, escaped the Nazis through the Kinder Transport programme. Coming to England and eventually settling here, Simon made a good life for himself. The family name was changed to Winston as his mother thought Weinstein sounded too German. Talking to us and other visitors for an hour and a half, Simon was very passionate about re-telling his fascinating and intriguing life. I think everyone was amazed at his vivid memory at the age of 76 and really enjoyed his talk.
The centre entertains about 140 people, mainly school children, on a daily basis. This must be very hard work for the volunteer staff, who were all very friendly and cheerful towards the visitors.
Moving through the building we experienced different emotions. There were two main exhibitions – the Holocaust museum and the ‘Journey’ which dealt with the Kinder Transport. Moving through the ‘Journey’, we were happy to see the re-created living room, with its dining table set out as it would have been in 1930s Germany and an old wind-up gramophone with records. Then the school classroom with its little desks we squeezed ourselves in to.
We then entered another room, which had benches down the sides and was designed to resemble a moving train taking the displaced children to the UK. Throughout our journey, Leo, a Kinder Transport child kept us informed of where we were and what we were experiencing. In the main exhibition, a lot of the rooms had videos showing Holocaust survivors speaking about their experiences during the war. I think I was mainly in awe of the many thousands of wonderful photographs and documents on show, which have survived all these years. So many people, so many beautiful children, lost forever, but not forgotten.
After a lovely day at the Centre we all made our way to the remembrance garden, where we had a placed stones on the memorial pile and said Kaddish. This Kaddish was said particularly in remembrance of a late member and good friend of Ne’ve Shalom, Bob Rosner, himself a Kinder Transport child, who also gave talks at the centre. It was during one of his talks a few years ago that he was taken ill and passed away at Beth Shalom. Bob, along with the many at Beth Shalom, will be in our hearts forever.